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Cat Hellisen

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

The Problem With Owning Only One Net

How do you catch a shape-shifting animal if you only have one net? What if you start out catching butterflies and end up hunting a bear?

This is a terrible metaphor but I’m going to use it anyway because I think it gets the point across.

Novels are shapeshifting beasties. Just when you think you know what it is and you’ve picked up your net and run after it, it turns around and bites your head off.

Because you see, the last time, right, the last time you wrote a novel, it trotted neatly along in a linear fashion, and there were exactly two points of view and it had a comfy 3rd person voice and well, it was easy. You bagged that sucker, revisions were a doddle and now you know *exactly* how to write a novel.

No. You know exactly how to write that novel. (Kinda, maybe, depends. You may be wrong about that too.)

You do not know how to write the next novel, because even though you had a perfectly well-planned outline and you thought you knew what you were doing because LAST TIME, RIGHT, LAST TIME this worked. And now it appears to have mutated into I have no fucking clue what and where did this extra character voice come from and that was not supposed to happen and these scenes are all out of order and what the HELL happened to that ending I had all worked out, dammit THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE AND I GIVE UP THIS BOOK IS BROKEN.


And maybe you just need to accept that this is not the novel you thought you were writing, and you need to go home and get a bigger net.
*I should probably add that the you in every post I write is me, because really, I’m just talking to myself.


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